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LA City Council greenlights ban on homeless encampments 500 feet from schools, daycare centers

Los Angeles City Council, exactly a week before an upcoming election, approved the drafting of a measure to ban homeless encampments within 500 feet of schools and daycare centers citywide. 

The proposal, spearheaded by Council President Nury Martinez, passed along a 13-2 vote as many council incumbents face competitive races with homelessness and public safety at the forefront. 

The vote was held after councilmembers listened to parents and teachers at Virgil Middle School and Alberto M. Carvalho, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, who attended the meeting in person. Carvalho and others described how children are bearing witness to naked people lining sidewalks often using drugs and shouting profanities within earshot of nearby schoolyards. 

“I’ve seen elementary schools with conditions that none of us as parents would find acceptable for our children: individuals with mental illness, some of them absolutely unclothed, shouting profanities to the listening ear of children,” Carvalho said, according to the Los Angeles Times. 

The city’s existing anti-camping ordinance approved last summer following weeks of debate requires a lengthy review process before tents can be removed from sidewalks and around parks, libraries and schools. 

By contrast, the new proposal was green-lit without review from the council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee, meaning that if the final draft is voted through, enforcement so far delayed a year will become an immediate priority for hundreds, if not thousands, of school campuses across the city. 

A person experiencing homelessness near their tent in the Skid Row neighborhood of Los Angeles on Feb. 24, 2022.
Bloomberg via Getty Images
An aerial view of homeless encampments in Skid Row as smoke from California wildfires obscures the setting sun and skyline on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021 in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles City Council approved the drafting of a measure to ban homeless encampments within 500 feet of schools and daycare centers citywide. 
Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The councilmembers who voted in favor of the proposal also seeking re-election are Bob Blumenfield, Gil Cedillo, Mitch O’Farrell, Curren Price and Monica Rodriguez. 

Councilman Kevin de León, a candidate in a crowded field vying to become mayor, also voted in favor, as did Councilman Paul Koretz, who is campaigning for city controller.

The two who rejected the new measure, councilmembers Mike Bonin and Nithya Raman, argued that it would only push homeless encampments several blocks away from schools and would punish individuals for living on the streets.

Under the current ordinance, tents have remained at most of the city’s no encampment zones, police have issued few tickets and homeless outreach workers have struggled to persuade individuals to willingly move into temporary housing arrangements. 

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